Science teacher Gabe Boisseau talks about his educational philosophy and incorporating inquiry into his classroom in our most recent faculty profile. Read more below.
I grew up in St. Johnsbury, Vermont and became active in the outdoors at a young age. In high school at St. Johnsbury Academy, I had two influential teachers, Sharon Wilson and Bill Biddle, who ran the Wilderness Club and would take us out in the mountains on the weekends – skiing in Tuckerman Ravine, backpacking in the White Mountains, multi-day canoe trips in Maine, etc. After high school, I knew I wanted to find myself in a profession that would combine the classroom with outdoor education.
My first experience doing this was in college. I have always studied and have been interested in the sciences, and I was studying Forestry at the University of Montana. I happened to find a job working for Missoula Parks and Recreation helping out with a program that went to elementary schools in the Missoula area and worked on team building and communication skills with kids – it was great! From that point until now I have always had a job working with middle school – high school students in some capacity in the outdoors.
I see education as giving students an idea, a perspective, as to what is out there and then giving them time to delve into areas of interest. I see the classroom as exposing students to a topic and then seeing where they go with it. If, on the first day of Biology, I said to students “Alright, go learn about anything you want!” a lot of students wouldn’t know where to start – but after covering some topics in biology in the classroom hopefully something will pique their interest and they’ll want to study it further. I think education needs to be tactile, and not just the learning of facts but a process of building skills and knowledge to delve more deeply.
Inquiry and the classroom
I’ve always believed that hands-on, experiential education is the way to go – especially when it is learning about something you are personally interested or invested in. I started doing self-directed projects with students a number of years back. I recognized, as many have, that any curriculum for a year long course offers a somewhat limited view on the subject and I wanted to give students an opportunity to explore, more in-depth, areas of interest that we may not have covered in class.
I had the chance to take part in discussions to help incorporate this type of learning into courses at WMS. These conversations evolved into the development of the LASR project and mini-LASR work. A graduation requirement, the LASR project is an independent research project students undertake their junior or senior year here at White Mountain. It is a chance for students to delve deep into topics they are curious about. One of my classes, Science Research Seminar, was started to help fulfill the LASR requirement. The focus of this class is for students to do hands-on science research in a lab environment, while exploring things of interest to them. Mini-LASRs expose students to a topic that they want to spend more time on later during a LASR project. It scaffolds what a full semester of LASR study might look like and provides students with some basic skill sets for a LASR project.
Favorite thing about WMS
I am so grateful to be part of an education process, and teach at a school that encourages and exposes students to the world and gets them out to experience the world – whether that be through Field Courses, afternoon sports, weekend activities or studying tree growth on campus during class.
Favorite place on campus
I love the forest at WMS – it is the best classroom on campus! I love that I can take students out into it and, when not teaching, this is where I like to be – whether that is building new trails, mountain biking, trail running, or just enjoying a quiet walk.
My grandparents bought land and a house in Bethlehem about 70 years ago and my father grew up here. We’ve always known that we could build on a piece of this land if we wanted so two years ago, with two young kids, we decided to permanently settle and build a house. We wanted to raise our children in NH. We both had great jobs and I was(am) teaching at a school where I can combine teaching science and adventuring with students in the outdoors! WMS has been very supportive in this process and we are very thankful for that!